Prep Football: East Rowan 47, South Rowan 14
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY - East Rowan already has accomplished things that few expected, but there are always new worlds to conquer.
As visiting South Rowan lined up for Friday's opening kickoff, East's Madison Hedrick turned to Donte Means and said, "If they kick it you, follow me, and we'll take it all the way back."
South kicked it deep to Means, he followed Hedrick and he took it all the way back.
"I followed Maddy and Calvin (Edwards) and I remember good blocks from Dustin (Mowery) and (Dalton) Moose," Means said. "I saw the hole, and I took it."
Just like that, surging East hit South with a backbreaker. After 16 seconds, the Mustangs led 6-0, and with Edwards motoring for 200 rushing yards and the defense stuffing South's running game, they were on their way to a 47-14 victory.
"I don't remember us every running a kickoff back before," Hedrick said. "But any time Donte gets the ball in his hands, he's a dangerous threat. He's just so quick, and he's been our best special teams player for a long time."With a 4-1 county record and a head-to-head win against West Rowan, East is the unofficial county champion.
"I always told myself we could play like this," Hedrick said. "We accomplished one big goal tonight. There are some more still in front of us."Means is doing things no one has seen in GQ in a while. When East beat West Rowan 13-7 on Sept. 28, Means gave the Mustangs their first pick-six since "Big Play" Trey Holmes accomplished the feat against Lake Norman in 2007.
Against South, Means gave East its first TD on a kickoff return since Ben DeCelle roared to the house against West Iredell in 2008.
"It's great to have athletes who can make plays like that," East coach Danny Misenheimer said. " That was one heck of a jump-start for us."
It was one heck of a deflator for South.
"We came over here believing we had a legit chance to beat East," said South sophomore QB Aaron Kennerly who threw for 237 yards. "But that kickoff return put all the momentum on their side. It was their Senior Night, and it just turned into a wave of momentum that was very hard for us to handle."
South coach Jason Rollins was worried his team would die slowly from nicks and cuts at the hands of East's clock-draining veer offense. Instead, South got a bullet to the head in the opening seconds.
"We were down 6-0 just like that, but we did keep fighting and I thought our young quarterback stayed in there in the heat of the storm and did a nice job," Rollins said.
Kennerly completed five passes to Josh Medlin and four to Dominique Garlin, and he hit Tyler Fuller with a 78-yard, fourth-quarter TD that kept South (27, 2-3) from losing by 40. It was still the most lopsided loss South has ever suffered against East (6-3, 5-0 NPC). First-place East goes to Statesville (8-1, 4-0) next Friday, looking for its first football championship since 1997.
South lost the turnover battle 3-1, and the first one hurt. When a shotgun snap sailed over Kennerly's head, T.J. Jefferson recovered for East, and Hedrick capped a short drive with a 1-yard plunge.
When East's sophomore QB Sam Wyrick hit Jordan Phillips for a 79-yard pass play to set up a 3-yard scoring run by Edwards, it was 20-0 before the end of the first quarter.
Kennerly's passing skills got South on the board in the second quarter. He hit Medlin for 27 yards on fourth-and-2, and then he threw a 10-yard scoring pass to Medlin.
"South's quarterback is the real deal, and I was very impressed," Misenheimer said. "Their offensive line did a good job protecting him, and they're on the borderline of being a very good team."
Wyrick scored on a 5-yard run to give East a 27-7 halftime lead, and Edwards blew it open in the second half with scoring dashes of 67 and 45 yards.
"Our offensive line got to their linebackers," Edwards said. "Then all I had to do was turn on the speed."